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Book review: Dirty Teaching

The arrival of Juliet Robertson’s first book was keenly anticipated by her many fans across the UK and beyond; Dirty Teaching does not disappoint.

The book aims to be a critical friend to primary schools, providing them with the inspiration, ideas and support to enable a high quality curriculum to be delivered outdoors as well as in. It’s ordered in a rational and progressive way, setting out the ‘golden’ principles and unique qualities of learning outdoors before moving on to the practicalities of taking a class outdoors and then exploring the potential of outdoors to support learning. A pithy conclusion makes a strong case for a whole school approach, which I wholly endorse.

Useful ‘checklists’ at the end of each chapter offer a succinct summary of the chapter’s content and provide key questions for readers to address in order to progress their own practice. They also help ‘move’ the book forward, giving a sense of evolution though the subject matter, which covers embracing risk, what’s possible in ‘concrete jungles’, overcoming fears and making the most of the natural world – and much more.

Learning can take place in any outdoor environment; even the most barren school grounds can be coaxed into enriching and consolidating children’s learning. My own experience tells me that the barriers to greater use of outdoors are less to do with the quality of the environment or the weather (although these are of course powerful factors), but is in fact largely related to staff confidence and the school’s cultural norms. Where outdoor learning and play are not valued by senior managers in the school, training in taking learning outdoors will be a rarity and this will inevitably affect the frequency with which students are able to go outdoors. This book will play a part in improving the confidence and competence of individual teachers, and will arm them with strong, persuasive arguments for adapting the culture of the school to include outdoor learning as an entitlement for all children.

Juliet’s writing style is engaging and lively, with longer passages in particular really drawing out her passion for outdoor learning and play. Having been both classroom teacher and Headteacher, Juliet’s grasp of the realities of teaching and learning outdoors makes this book a genuinely helpful contribution to a once neglected area of educational publishing. And whilst there is now a plethora of publications about the benefits of outdoor learning and play, few authors can boast Juliet’s combination of teaching experience and developing and delivering her own school grounds CPD across Scotland and beyond. Her influential and widely read blog, “I’m a teacher, get me outside here” is an authoritative source of theoretical and tried-and-tested information. In short, Juliet knows what she’s talking about and her book should quickly become a key reference for student teachers.

How to summarise this book…? Let’s just say that I have two copies and one of them is already dog-eared and mud-spattered only a few months after it arrived. It’s practical and useable and is also an accessible, enjoyable read.

Publishers: please can the second edition come with wipe-clean covers?


Author: Juliet Roberston

Published by: Independent Thinking Press

ISBN: 978-178135107-9


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